INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--- PAPER NO.422
Three messages, purported to be from someone representing a so-called Indian Mujahideen, were received by some sections of the Indian media claiming responsibility for the serial blasts in three towns of Uttar Pradesh on November 23,2007, in Jaipur on May 13,2008, and in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008. The messages of November 23, 2007, and July 26,2008, were received shortly before the blasts took place, thereby establishing that they must have come from the perpetrators. The message of May 13,2008, was received after the blasts, but it had a photograph of a bicycle with the improvised explosive device (IED) attached to it. The number of the cycle was readable. The picture was of one of the cycles used by the perpetrators. This established the authenticity of the claim.
2. The message of November 23,2007, was politely worded except at one place where the members of Hindutva organisations were called "sons of bitches". The message of May 13,2008, too was largely polite in language. As against this, the message of July 26,2008, is not only extremely virulent, but also very obnoxious in the language used with regard to the Hindus and some of their leaders such as Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
3. The messages of November 23, 2007, and May 13,2008, spoke on behalf of the Indian Muslim community as a whole. The message of July 26,2008, speaks largely on behalf of the Muslims of Gujarat, but there are references to the alleged plight of the Muslims in other parts of India too such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It also warns of future attacks at some of these places.
4. The message of November 23, 2007 spoke of the Muslim anger against the Indian system as a whole and particularly against the Indian criminal justice system, but there were no attacks on individuals. There was also a positive reference to the investigative story done by the journal "Tehelka" on the anti-Muslim incidents in Gujarat in 2002. In the message of July 26,2008, the references to "Tehelka" are somewhat sarcastic and there is also a criticism of the "Times of India" group for its articles on jihadi terrorism. Surprisingly, there is no condemnation of other newspapers such as "the Pioneer", which are even stronger in their criticism of Muslims and jihadi terrorism.
5. The message of November 23,2007, used in some places the first person singular ("I) and in some places the first person plural ("we). It said thus in the beginning: "Before I start telling the cause behind this sacred activity (Al Jihad), I would like to give introduction about our organisation and our Mujahideen".It was thus drafted as if the message was from the leader of "Indian Mujahideen" to explain why they have started the jihad. The originator of the message was one "Guru al-Hindi" . This gave rise to an interpretation that the leader of the group has assumed a "kuniyat" (pseudonym) after Mohammad Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death in the case relating to the unsuccessful attack on the Indian Parliament House in December,2001. His mercy petition is presently under the consideration of the President of India. Organisations such as the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and Al Qaeda take their "kuniyats" from the Holy Koran (companions of the Holy Prophet). They do not take "kuniyats" from living persons.
6. The messages of May 13,2008, and July 26,2008, too identified the originator as Guru al-Hindi. There are more allusions to and quotations from the Holy Koran in the message of July 26,2008, similar to what one sees in the messages of Osama bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, than in the previous two messages.
7.The message of November 23, 2007, projected the struggle launched by the "Indian Mujahideen" as Al Jihad and as a war for civilisations. The latest message projects it as a jihad of revenge. There is no reference to the so-called "war for civilisations".
8. The message of November 23,2007, categorically said that the Indian Mujahideen are "purely Indian" and have nothing to do with the Pakistani organisations like the LET, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) etc or with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). There is no such categorical affirmation in the latest message. It says the attacks are carried out by Indians only and appeals to organisations such as the LET not to claim responsibility for them. The message interestingly admits indirectly that its jihad amounts to "terrorism against disbelievers". It is not apologetic about it.
9. The latest message claims direct reponsibility for the blasts of Jaipur and Ahmedabad and hints that it also carried out the blasts of UP in November last year. Intriguingly, it makes no claims about the blasts in Bengaluru on July 25,2008. There is criticism of the ill-treatment of Muslims in Karnataka, but no reference to the Bengaluru blasts as such.
10. The messages of November 23,2007 and May 13,2008, did not carry the signature of Guru al-Hindi. The message of July 26,2008, carries his signature. To the left of his signature the word ALARBI is written in capital letters. Al Arbi or Al Arabia means Arab, but that is not the sense in which it has apparently been used here.
11.In the Arabic language, Wednesday is known as Al Arbi or Al Arbia, meaning the fourth day of the week. Guru al-Hindi seems to have written in his own hand "ALARBI" to indicate that he had signed the message on Wednesday, the 23rd of July,2008. The message itself was sent by E-mail shortly before the blasts on July 26.
12. If this was drafted on July 23, why it did not contain any advance warning of the Bengaluru blasts? Were the blasts in Bengaluru carried out by a group different from the group which carried out the blasts in UP, Jaipur and Ahmedabad and planted over 20 explosive devices in Surat, which did not explode? Why not one of the IEDs in Surat explode?A 100 per cent failure of over 20 devices is unheard of in the history of terrorism. Why the terrorists planted IEDs outside two hospitals in Ahmedabad to kill many of those injured in the blasts in other parts of Ahmedabad? This kind of barbarity has not been seen in the sub-continent before though Western terrorism experts have been repeatedly warning about the possibility of Al Qaeda one day targeting hospitals and calling for increased security in hospitals. However, the kind of terrorist attacks they were appreheding related to tampering with the life support systems, contaminating the medicines etc and not the use of IEDs.
13. It is difficult to find answers to these questions on the basis of present evidence. One possible explanation for the 100 per cent failure of the over 20 IEDs found in Surat is that the terrorists did not want them to explode. It was possibly an intimidatory message by them to the rich diamond merchants of Surat as to what could happen to their city, their lives and business if they did not contribute money to the Indian Mujahideen.
14. A highly worrisome aspect of the incidents in Gujarat is that the terrorists had planted over 36 IEDs in Ahmedabad and Surat---- a very large number. One of the IEDs in Surat was planted on the top of a tree. In not one of these cases was the perpetrator noticed by the police or the public while planting the device. If the IEDs in Surat had been planted after the explosions in Ahmedabad, it is even more worrisome. It shows that the so-called security alert in other cities after the Ahmedabad blasts was not effective. (2-8-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )